Communication

How to run an internal communications audit (+worksheet!)

Posted on: May 12, 2023Updated on: November 22, 2023By: Patrick Icasas

This is an excerpt from our Ultimate Guide to Frontline Employee Communication. Read the guide to get the full story on optimizing your frontline employee communication!

You put so much time and effort into the information you share with your frontline—but is it truly effective? According to research in The Deskless Report, 65% of corporate leaders believe their communication is effective, while only 35% of frontline workers agree. That disconnect can be seriously damaging.

That’s where a communication audit can help to uncover exactly how your communications are performing, how accessible your channels are, and more. 

In this article, you’ll learn what an internal communication audit is, the basics of running an audit, communication audit questions to ask, and much more. 

Executives sitting around a table looking at reports

What is a communication audit?

An internal communications audit is a review of how well your organization and its leaders distribute and collect information to and from your workforce and how well the current setup aligns with your overall strategy. This audit is especially crucial for organizations with deskless and frontline employees, who spend very little face-to-face time with management and don’t have regular access to computers, so a specialized strategy is crucial. A successful internal communications audit will ensure you identify the right way to share information.

The benefits of auditing your internal communications strategy

It may sound unnecessarily bureaucratic at first, but an audit is actually one of the best things you can do for your organization. Even organizations without an existing internal communication strategy can benefit from an audit. In fact, we would argue that they need it even more. 

Done right, a company’s internal communication strategy can engage and motivate your frontline staff. Just ask Clear Company, who found that businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover. And ThinkTalent, who discovered that organizations with meaningful communication programs are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. 

The reverse is also true. Poorly-run communications can lead to disengagement, and disengaged employees are a flight risk. According to Gallup, 56% of not engaged and 73% of actively disengaged employees are either looking for jobs or watching for other opportunities. 

Auditing can uncover serious issues with your internal communications strategy and improve employee engagement. It can also provide easy wins that open lines of communication and get employees back on board. 

So let’s get started. Here are the first steps to take when starting a communication audit: 

How do you plan and run an internal communication audit?

1. Create an audit team

Conducting a successful internal communications audit will involve time, effort, and dedicated manpower. While it’s tempting to hire an external company to conduct the audit, an internal team can be just as effective, provided they approach it in an organized fashion, and they have the independence and authority necessary to gather data and act on their findings.

If you don’t have a dedicated internal communications team to run the audit, put together an ad-hoc team composed of delegates from your operations, L&D, HR and marketing teams. You may also want to include someone to represent the frontline employees to provide additional perspective.

2. Set goals

Question: what part of your internal communications do you want the audit to improve? You may be tempted to conduct an audit with a broad scope (“are my communications working?”), but you might see better results if you fine-tune your audit.

Audits work best when they focus on improving specific aspects of your internal communications. The narrower and more measurable the goals are, the greater the chance your audit will succeed.

3. Collect info and insights

Collecting the intel for your communication audit is a multi-stage process. If you have a frontline enablement solution in place, collecting these insights will be much easier—but taking a more analog approach is definitely possible as well. Let’s take each stage one at a time.

Metrics review

Workforce insights are a critical step in any communication strategy—and are extremely informative in your internal communication audit. Collecting quantitative data can be useful to either support or challenge the anecdotal feedback you’ll be collecting later. This data may also signal warning signs for internal communication problems.

Look for the metrics that relate closely to the goals you set, but make sure to consider multiple data points to get as wide a picture as possible: review employee awareness, measure employee satisfaction, you name it. Again, a frontline enablement solution will make collecting these metrics easier, but there are still workforce insights you can tap into and learn from, even if you’re not using communication technology. 

Communication tools review

An internal communications tool is a method, product, or software that you use to send and receive messages to and from your team. Many companies use email, but we’ve seen everything from low-tech solutions like bulletin boards and posters to high-end enablement solutions, where learning, communications and operational support are corralled into one central resource. The tool you use should make your communication strategy more effective and streamlined. And the only way to truly gauge its effectiveness is by questioning your assumptions. For a worksheet to help you assess your communication tools (and track your full audit start to finish!) get our free Internal Communications Audit Worksheet

Anecdotal information

Numbers can tell you a lot, but looking at the human side—i.e. Collecting qualitative data—can tell you just as much, if not more. Asking the right communication audit questions through focus groups and interviews can uncover valuable insights and red flags about your channels. It’s important to interview both sides of the conversation: corporate and your frontline workers and managers. When talking to your corporate leaders, get their perspective on what they prioritize, how they think the company should be communicating, and what they think the gaps are. 

Here are some examples of communication audit questions to ask your corporate leaders:

  • How would you describe the communications your frontline receives? 
  • How effective do you feel the communication channels are? 
  • Are you comfortable leveraging these tools to share information and collect feedback?
  • What channels or tools do you use to share information?

When you do get to talk with frontline workers and managers, don’t ask leading questions. Balance quantitative and qualitative responses and give respondents an opportunity to free-write their answers. 

Here are some examples of communication audit questions to ask your frontline:

  • How would you describe the communications you receive?
  • How do you use our communication channels? 
  • When do you access them? How often do you access them? 
  • Where do you go during your shift when you need information? 
  • Do you know who to ask if you don’t have access to the information you need?

4. Analyze the intel

Once you’ve harvested your information, you can analyze the data to uncover weaknesses in your internal communications strategy, red flags on channel effectiveness and signs your communication is broken. Compile your findings into key insights, then go back to your audit goals to see what conclusions you can derive. From there, you’ll develop an executive summary complete with a list of actionable data-based recommendations to share with stakeholders and start to prepare a plan of action. Here are a few examples of recommendations and overall strategy direction you might bring back to the organization based on your audit findings: 

  • Choose a new enablement solution to make communication simple and easy.
  • Create a monthly or quarterly communication calendar to ensure your communications are targeted around a core goal or objective. 
  • Identify the metrics you want to track and how you’ll track them. 
  • If you don’t have one, create a dedicated communications lead who will work with various stakeholders to create and share information. 

Bringing an audit into your strategic communication planning process

Remember, you don’t have to overhaul your entire internal communications system all at once. You can improve one component at a time, focusing on the area that will deliver the most value to the organization and its employees. 

Ready to try your first audit? Use our Internal Communications Audit Worksheet to track your full audit start to finish. And remember to read the full Ultimate Guide to Frontline Employee Communication for more communication tricks and tips.

Patrick Icasas

Patrick Icasas is a Canadian freelance writer with a history of writing for B2B industries. His work spans across tech, manufacturing, HR, and ecommerce industries, with occasional forays into CPG and fiction writing.